In February of 1858, whilst conducting fieldwork in the Malay Archipelago, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) was bed-ridden, suffering from an attack of malaria. Ill and fevered, he drafted his ideas on the "survival of the fittest" during a single evening. On 9 March 1858 in Ternate he mailed a letter to Charles Darwin (1809-1882) . He requested that if Darwin thought the ideas worthy that he send the letter on to Charles Lyell. Understanding the importance of the contents of the letter and unable to contact Wallace, Darwin sought advice from Lyell and Joseph Hooker as he was in a difficult position. Darwin did not want to lose his scientific priority for a theory on which he had been working for many years. At the same time he wanted to behave honourably towards Wallace. Together they concluded that the paper must be read at the Linnean Society without delay. Darwin had yet to publish his work on the same subject, but an extract from Darwin's works, together with a letter to Asa Gray, were added to the essay by Wallace and read for the Linnean Society. This rare and important publication is displayed here. Much has been made of the fact that this action was taken without Wallace's knowledge or consent, that Darwin's items were read first and that Darwin then went on to quickly publish . These facts have led many to believe that Darwin has been unfairly credited with developing the theory of evolution by natural selection, when in fact Wallace was the first to put the idea to paper. Others believe that Darwin wanted to take the credit. However, the pair had much correspondence over the following years and held each other in the highest regard, frequently crediting and complementing each other's work. There is no indication that Wallace felt that Darwin had acted dishonourably. In fact he seemed very flattered that Darwin had presented his paper at the Linnean Society. The relationship between the two men over their professional careers continued to be complex, but gentlemanly. Darwin was the country squire, living off inherited wealth and sound investments on a small estate, working in the pursuit of evolution. Wallace was the committed socialist saved ultimately from abject poverty by Darwin and his friends who arranged a Crown pension, labouring seemingly forever in the other's shadow
Continued as : Journal of the Linnean Society of London
Kohler Darwin Collection Review
Tring copy of vol.3 (Zoology) lacks p.1-76; Tring copy of vol.4 (Zoology) has incorrect pagination
1855-1865 [T] [Z] [B] ; 1855-1862 [E]
Tring holds 1855-1865 (Zoological issues only)
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Copyright-evidenceEvidence reported by Nathan Haldane for item journalofproceed03linn on May 14, 2007: no visible notice of copyright; exact publication date unknown.